SOLANA BEACH — At Wednesday night’s Council meeting, residents spilled out the doors of City Hall, eager to weigh in on seawalls.
Those against the seawalls say a coastline enjoyed by many should take precedence over protecting bluff homes. Seawalls provide protection for homes atop the bluffs, but they also prevent natural erosion, shrinking beaches.
In response, Bluff-top property owners argue any further restrictions would trample their rights and place a financial burden on them.
After hearing input from both sides, councilmembers voted 3-2 to keep working with the California Coastal Commission on a local beach preservation plan governing seawalls.
This spring, the Coastal Commission proposed changes to the local beach preservation plan, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Suggested changes from the Coastal Commission include requiring property owners to reapply for seawall permits every 20 years, restricting bluff-top homes from remodeling and converting private stairways that go to the beach into public land.
Councilman Dave Roberts said he couldn’t support some of the Coastal Commission’s recommended changes. But he also didn’t want to reject the modifications altogether.
“We’re 95 percent of the way there,” Roberts said.
At the meeting, councilmembers had the choice of rejecting all of the changes, adopting some of the changes and reviewing others with city staff, approving all changes or taking no action. Mayor Joe Kellejian and Councilman Thomas Campbell said Council should reject all of the changes. But with both of them opposed, Council decided to go with option two following nearly three hours of discussion.
Sporting yellow shirts, members from the Beach & Bluff Conservancy urged Council to vote against all of the Coastal Commission’s proposed changes.
Jon Corn from the Conservancy said the Coastal Commission’s changes would cause a drop in home values and property taxes that go to the city.
“The city won’t be able to provide as many services,” said Corn, adding that a state agency shouldn’t have authority over a local issue.
Donning blue shirts, the Surfrider Foundation urged the Council to green light all of the recommended changes.
Julia Chunn-Heer, a Surfrider project coordinator, said the economic value of residents and tourists visiting beaches eclipses that of bluff-top homeowners. Further, she argued the public has a right to healthy beaches.
City staff stated it’s likely rejecting all of the Coastal Commission changes would effectively mean starting the local plan anew.
Like Roberts, councilmembers Mike Nichols and Lese Heebner said they were concerned with some of the Coastal Commission’s changes, but believe too much progress has been made to turn back.
Council and city staff will keep working with the Coastal Commission and may vote on some of the recommended changes at a later date.